Brazil, officially the Federative Republic of Brazil (Portuguese: Brasil or República Federativa do Brasil, listen (help·info)[1]), is the largest and most populous country in South America; and the fifth largest in the world in both area and population. Spanning a vast area between central South America and the Atlantic Ocean, it is the easternmost country of America and borders every other South American country other than Ecuador and Chile (viz. Uruguay, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname and the French department of French Guiana).

Brazil was colonized by Portugal and it is the only Portuguese-speaking country in the Americas. It is a multiracial country with a population composed of European, Amerindian, African and Asian elements. The country's Roman Catholic population is the single largest of any country in the world.


Before the first Portuguese explorers, led by Pedro Álvares Cabral, arrived in 1500, Brazil is thought to have been inhabited by semi-nomadic populations for at least 10,000 years. Over the next three centuries, it was resettled by the Portuguese and exploited mainly for brazilwood (Pau-Brasil), then sugarcane (Cana-de-Açúcar), coffee beans and gold mining. The colony's manpower was initially composed of enslaved peoples, firstly Amerindians and then, after 1532, mainly Africans.

The only recorded transcontinental relocation of a royal family occurred in 1808 when the Portuguese royal family, headed by Queen Maria I of Portugal and her son and regent, the future João VI of Portugal, fled Napoleon's armies and relocated to Rio de Janeiro, along with the government and nobility. Although they returned in 1821, the interlude led to the opening of commercial ports to the United Kingdom — at the time isolated from most European ports by Napoleon — and to the elevation of Brazil to the status of a United Kingdom under the Portuguese Crown. Upon João VI's departure, the remaining royal government in Rio moved to dissolve the Kingdom of Brazil and return it to the status of colony. This resulted in the small scale conflicts known as the Brazilian War of Independence. On 7 September 1822 Prince regent Dom Pedro I (later Pedro IV of Portugal) declared independence, establishing the independent Empire of Brazil. A treaty recognizing the Empire's independence was signed on 29 August 1825 with Britain and Portugal. As the crown remained in the hands of the House of Bragança, this was more the severance of the Portuguese empire in two, than an independence movement as seen elsewhere in the Americas.

The Brazilian Empire was formally a democracy in the British style, although in practice, the emperor-premier-parliament balance of power more closely resembled the autocratic Austrian Empire. Slavery was abolished in 1888, through the "Golden Law", created by Princess Isabel, and intensive European immigration created the basis for industrialization. Pedro I was succeeded by his son, Pedro II — who in old age was caught by a political dispute between the Army and the Cabinet, a crisis arising from the Paraguay War. Pedro II was deposed from the throne on 15 November 1889, when a federal republic (officially, the Republic of the United States of Brazil) was established by Field Marshal Deodoro da Fonseca.

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Brazil attracted over 5 million European, Arab and Japanese immigrants. During this time Brazil became industrialised, further colonised, and its interior further explored and developed. Brazilian democracy was replaced by dictatorships three times — 1930–1934 and 1937–1945 under Getúlio Vargas, and 1964–1985, under a succession of generals appointed by the military. Since 1985, Brazil has been regarded as a presidential democracy, a status affirmed by a plebiscite in 1993 which asked voters to indicate a preference for a presidential or parliamentary system. Voters also decided not to restore the country's constitutional monarchy.


Government and politics

The capital of Brazil is Brasilia. According to the Constitution promulgated in 1988, Brazil is a federal presidential representative democratic republic, wherein the President is both head of state and head of government. The actual President of Brazil is Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula). He was re-elected on 29 October 2006, extending his position as President of Brazil until the end of 2010. One of the fundamental principles of the politics in the Republic is the multi-party system, as a guarantee of political freedom.

The administrative structure of the State is a federation; however, Brazil has included the municipalities as autonomous political entities making the federation tripartite: encompassing the Union, the States, and the municipalities. The legal system is based on Roman law.

The Union's executive power is exercised by the government, headed by the president, who is elected for a four-year term, and is allowed to be re-elected for one other term. Legislative power is vested in the National Congress, which is bicameral. The deputies of the Chamber of Deputies are elected every four years in a system of proportional representation by states.

The members of the Federal Senate are elected for an eight-year term. The Ordinary Law making process requires the participation of the executive, which has a right to veto on new legislation, and has an exclusive prerogative of initiative of legislation on certain matters. Additionally, if relevant and urgent circumstances justify it, the executive may issue a "Provisory Measure," which has the binding force of the Law and comes into force immediately. The "Provisory Measure" retains its full power for up to 120 days, unless it is removed by the Congress.


Administrative divisions

Brazil is a federation consisting of twenty-six states (estados) and one federal district (Distrito Federal), making a total of 27 "federate units".

The Brazilian states enjoy a significant autonomy of government, law making, public security and taxation. The government of a state is headed by a Governor (governador), elected by popular vote, and also comprises its own legislative body (assembléia legislativa). Each state is divided into municipalities (municípios) with their own legislative council (câmara de vereadores) and a mayor (prefeito), which are autonomous and hierarchically independent from both federal and state government. A municipality may include other towns (distritos) besides the municipal seat; those, however, have no separate government.

The judiciary is organised at the state and federal levels within districts called comarcas. One comarca may include several municipalities.

See also 
Regions of Brazil · List of major cities in Brazil · List of cities in Brazil



Brazil is characterized by the extensive low-lying Amazon Rainforest in the north and a more open terrain of hills and low mountains to the south — home to most of the Brazilian population and its agricultural base. Along the Atlantic seacoast are also found several mountain ranges, reaching roughly 2,900 metres (9,500 ft) high.

The highest peak is the 3,014 metre (9,735 ft) Pico da Neblina (Myst's Peak) in Guiana's highlands. Major rivers include the Amazon, the largest river in the world in flowing water volume, and the second-longest in the world; the Paraná and its major tributary, the Iguaçu River, where the impressive Iguaçu falls are located; the Negro, São Francisco, Xingu, Madeira and the Tapajós rivers.

Located mainly within the tropics, Brazil's climate has little seasonal variation. In southern most Brazil, however, there is subtropical temperate weather, occasionally experiencing frost and snow in the higher regions. Precipitation is abundant in the humid Amazon Basin, but more arid landscapes are found as well, particularly in the northeast. A number of islands in the Atlantic Ocean are part of Brazil:

Geographically, mainland Brazil is commonly divided into five regions: North, Northeast, Central-West, Southeast and South.



See also: Economic history of Brazil

Possessing large and well-developed agricultural, mining, manufacturing, [1] and service sectors, as well as a large labor pool, Brazil's GDP (PPP) outweighs that of any other Latin American country, being the core economy of Mercosul. The country has been expanding its presence in world markets. Major export products include aircraft, coffee, vehicles, soybean, iron ore, orange juice, steel, textiles, footwear, corned beef and electrical equipment.

According to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Brazil has the ninth largest economy in the world at Purchasing Power Parity and eleventh largest at market exchange rates. Brazil has a diversified middle income economy with wide variations in development levels. Most large industry is agglomerated in the South and South-East. The North-East is the poorest region of Brazil, but it is beginning to attract new investment. Brazil's diverse industries range from automobiles, steel and petrochemicals to computers, aircraft, and consumer goods and amount to one-third of the GDP. With the increased economic stability provided by the Plano Real, Brazilian and multinational businesses have invested heavily in new equipment and technology, a large proportion of which has been purchased from North American enterprises.

Brazil has a diverse and sophisticated services industry as well. During the early 1990s, the banking sector amounted to as much as 16% of GDP. Although undergoing a major overhaul, Brazilian financial services industry provides local businesses with a wide range of products and is attracting numerous new entrants, including U.S. financial firms. The São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro stock exchanges are undergoing a consolidation.

Brazilian cities vary significantly in the ease of doing business, according to the new Doing Business in Brazil report released by The World Bank Group. Brazilian cities perform better when it comes to the cost of registering property. But despite identical regulations across Brazil, there is a wide variation in the time it takes to transfer property.

According to international standards, Brazil has the ninth biggest economy in the world (see List of countries by GDP) and is among those countries constructing sophisticated technologies such as aircraft (see Embraer). As a core G20 country, Brazil has been expanding its influence in global economic negotiations. Although Brazil's economy is progressive and regionally important, the problems of widespread state bureaucracy, corruption, poverty and illiteracy are still major barriers to furthering its development.



Due to the relatively explosive economic and demographic rise of the country in the last century, Brazil's ability to protect its environmental habitats has increasingly come under threat. Extensive logging in the nation's forests, particularly the Amazon, both official and unofficial, destroys areas the size of a small country each year, and potentially a diverse variety of interesting plants and animals.

With abundant fauna and flora, Brazil is home to many thousands of species, most of them still undiscovered. By 2020, it is estimated that at least 50% of the species resident in Brazil will be eradicated.[citation needed]

As several of these specimens possess special characteristics, or are built in an interesting way, some of their capabilities may be copied for use in technology (see bionics).[citation needed] The revenues derived from such plans may still hold the key to preserve the country's animal and plant species.



Brazil's population is very diverse, comprising many races and ethnic groups. In general, Brazilians are descended from four sources of migration:

It is believed that the Americas were settled by three migratory waves from Northern Asia. The Brazilian Indians are thought to be descended from the first wave of migrants, who arrived in the region around 9000 BC. The main Native Brazilian groups were the Tupi-Guarani, the , the Arawaks and the Caraibas (Caribs). The Tupi-Guarani nation, originally from the Parana river basin and also the main of Native-Paraguayan nations, had spread all along the Brazilian coastline from South to North and got to be known by the Portuguese as "Os Índios da Língua Geral" ("The Indians of the General Language"); the nation occupied the most of the interior of the country from Maranhão to Santa Catarina. The Arawaks and the Caribs, the last ones to get in contact with the Portugueses, lived in the North and Northwest of Brazil.

The European immigration to Brazil started in the sixteenth century, the vast majority of them coming from Portugal. In the first two centuries of colonization, 100,000 Portuguese arrived in Brazil (around 500 colonists per year). In the eighteenth century, 600,000 Portuguese arrived (10,000 per year). The first region to be settled by the Portuguese was Northeastern Brazil, followed by the Southeastern region. The interior began to be settled during the eighteenth century. The Portuguese were the only ethnic group to settle across Brazil. However, it's also known that not so small numbers of Spaniards, especially from Galiza, had settled in Brazil along with the Portugueses back in the colonial times. Odds are that Diogo Álvares Correia a.k.a. "Caramuru", one of the first settlers and hero of the settlement of Bahia, was actually a Galizan from La Coruña, so Francisco Romero, administrator of the Captaincy of Ilheus in the mid 1500s, was a Spaniard.

The original Amerindian population of Brazil (between three and five million) has in large part been exterminated or assimilated into the Portuguese population. The Mamelucos (or Caboclos, mixed-race between Whites and Indians) have always been present in many parts of Brazil.

Another important ethnic group, Africans, first arrived as slaves. At first many came from Guinea, although by the end of the eighteenth century many had been taken from Angola and Mozambique (or, in Bahia, from Nigeria). By the time of the end of the slave trade in 1850, around three to five million slaves had been brought to Brazil – 37% of all slave traffic between Africa and the Americas.

The large influx of European immigrants to Brazil occurred in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Between 1870 and 1930, more than 5 million immigrants entered Brazil. These immigrants were divided in two groups: a part of them was sent to Southern Brazil to work as small farmers. However, the biggest part of the immigrants was sent to Southeastern Brazil to work in the coffee plantations. The immigrants sent to Southern Brazil were mainly Germans (starting in 1824, mainly from Rhineland-Palatinate, Pomerania, Hamburg, Westfalia, etc) and Italians (starting in 1875, mainly from the Veneto and Lombardia). In the South, the immigrants established rural communities that, still today, have a strong cultural connection with their homeland. In Southeastern Brazil most of the immigrants were Italians (mainly from the Veneto, Campania, Calabria and Lombardia), Portuguese (mainly from Beira Alta, Minho and Alto Trás-os-Montes), Spaniards (mainly from Galicia and Andalusia). Notably, the early part of the twentieth century saw a large influx of Japanese (mainly from Honshu and Okinawa) and Arabs (from Lebanon and Syria). These Arab immigrants were -and still are- wrongly called "Turks" by the Brazilians because their original countries were still under Turkish rule back in the times Arab immigration to Brazil began. Curiously, it was very few, if not even insignificant, the number of actual Turks who ever migrated to Brazil.

According to the Memorial do Imigrante, Brazil attracted nearly 5.5 million immigrants between 1870 and 1953: approximately 1,550,000 Italians, 1,470,000 Portuguese, 650,000 Spaniards, 210,000 Germans, 190,000 Japanese, 120,000 Poles and 650,000 of many other nationalities.

Brazil's population is mostly concentrated along the coast, with a lower population density in the interior. The population of the southern states is mainly of European descent, while the majority of the inhabitants of the north and northeast are of mixed ancestry (Amerindians, Africans and Europeans)

According to the Brazilian constitution of 1988, racism is an unbailable crime and must be met with imprisonment.


Ethnicity and race

The 2000 IBGE census found Brazil to consist of: [2]



German themed building in Blumenau, a southern Brazilian city, indicating the strong influence of immigrants in the city.
Main article: Languages of Brazil
See also: Brazilian Portuguese

Portuguese is the only official language of Brazil. It is spoken by nearly the entire population and is virtually the only language used in schools, newspapers, radio, TV and for all business and administrative purposes. Moreover, Brazil is the only Portuguese-speaking nation in the Americas, making the language an important part of Brazilian national identity. Portuguese as spoken in Brazil has developed independently of the European mother tongue, and it has undergone fewer phonetic changes than the language spoken in Portugal, thus it is often said that the "language of Camões", who lived in the sixteenth century, sounded closer to modern Brazilian Portuguese, than to the language spoken in Portugal today, and that his work is poetically more perfect when read the Brazilian way. Brazilian Portuguese has notable influences from Amerindian and African languages and several Italian assimilations. Generally, native speakers of each variant can understand one another, but there are several significant phonological, lexical and orthographic differences.


Minority languages

Many Amerindian languages are spoken daily in indigenous communities, primarily in Northern Brazil. Although many of these communities have significant contact with Portuguese, today there are incentives for teaching and preserving native languages. In 2006, the City of Sao Gabriel da Cachoeira in the region of Cabeça do Cachorro (Northwestern region of the State of Amazonas), has adopted some indigenous languages as some of its other official languages along with the Portuguese.

Other languages are spoken by descendants of immigrants, who are usually bilingual, in small rural communities in Southern Brazil. The most important are the Brazilian German dialects, such as Riograndenser Hunsrückisch and the Pomeranian language, and also the Talian, based on the Italian Venetian language. In the city of São Paulo, Japanese can be heard in the immigrant neighbourhoods, like Liberdade.

English is part of the official high school curriculum, but few Brazilians are truly fluent in the language, even in Brazilian universities. The Brazilian government has chosen to concentrate on teaching Spanish in public schools rather than English. Spanish is understood to varying degrees by many Brazilians, especially on the borders with Colombia, Peru, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.

Social issues



According to Fundação Getulio Vargas, in June 2006 the rate of poverty based into lacework was of 18.57% of the population - a 19.8% reduction during the previous 4 years. [3] The rate of poverty is in part attributed to the country's economic inequality. Brazil ranks among the world's highest nations in the Gini coefficient index of inequality assessment.

Poverty in Brazil is most visually represented by the various favelas, slums in the country's metropolitan areas and remote upcountry regions that suffer with economic underdevelopment and below-par standards of living. There are also great differences in wealth and welfare between regions[citation needed]. While the Northeast region has the worst economic indicators nationwide due to low coverage and quality of public services and widespread corruption, many cities in the South and Southeast enjoy First World socioeconomic standards. [2] In 2005, Brazil had more than 15 million (10.2%) people that were considered to be illiterate. [3]

A recent attempt to mitigate these problems is the "Fome Zero" hunger-eradication program implemented by President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. In 2003, he also consolidated several cash transfer programs into Bolsa Familia, a major anti-poverty program that gives money directly to empoverished families.


Government issues

In the last twelve years, Brazil's tax rate increased gradually from around 28% of the country's GDP to more than 37% [4]. In spite of this, insufficient improvement (and in some cases, no improvement) was seen in the public services offered by the federal or most of the state and municipal governments. [5] The two major causes are believed to be:

In recent years, there have been constant scandals involving members of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches of government accused of participating in schemes of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, anonymous banking, illegal campaign financing and slush fund operations.[citation needed]



The core culture of Brazil is rooted in the culture of Portugal. The Portuguese colonista and immigrants brought the Roman Catholic faith, the Portuguese language and many traditions and customs that still influence the modern-day Brazilian culture.

As a multiracial country, its culture also absorbed other influences. The Amerindian peoples influenced Brazil's language and cuisine and the Africans, brought as slaves, largely influenced Brazil's music, dance, cuisine, religion and language. The Yoruba traditions, from nowadays Southwest Nigeria had made its way strongly into Afro-Brazilian religion and into Brazilian religiousness as a whole. Ancient Yoruba Orishas )(gods) like Shango and Oxum are largely worshipped in Brazil, while the Samba and the Capoeira (musical rhythm and martial art, respectively) were originally contributions from the Bantu peoples from Angola. Italian, German and other European immigrants came in large numbers and their influences are felt closer to the Southeast and South of Brazil.

See also 
Brazilian Carnival · Brazilian skyscrapers · Cuisine of Brazil · List of Brazilians · Literature of Brazil · Music of Brazil · Cinema of Brazil · Sports in Brazil · Religion in Brazil · Holidays in Brazil


According to the IBGE census [8]:

Brazil has the largest Roman Catholic population in the world. See Roman Catholicism in Brazil.

Followers of Protestantism are rising in number. Until 1970, the majority of Brazilian Protestants were the ones of Traditional Churches - Lutherans, Presbyterians and Baptists mainly - but the Pentecostals and Neopentecostals have increased largely in numbers since then.

The largest population of Buddhists in Latin America lives in Brazil. This is mostly because Brazil has the largest Japanese population outside Japan. See Buddhism in Brazil.

Some of the African slaves brought to Brazil were the first Muslims in Brazil. Today, the Muslim population in Brazil is made up of mostly Arab immigrants.

Brazil appears as a devout country to outsiders yet in the latest IBGE poll, about 7% of Brazilians declared themselves to be non-religious (with just 1% declaring themselves atheists) and some 70% of Catholics stated that they were non-practicing.


The most popular sport in Brazil is football, and the country is renowned for the quality of its players, including Pelé, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Carlos Alberto, Roberto Dinamite, Edmundo, Zico, Sócrates, Mauro Galvão, Romário, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos, Juninho, Adriano, Diego, Robinho, Ronaldinho and Kaká. The Brazilian national football team (Seleção), has been victorious in the World Cup tournament a record five times. Internacional is the champion of the biggest league in the continent, the Taça Libertadores da América, and also is the holder of the FIFA Club World Cup title.

Brazil has also achieved success in other international sports, mainly volleyball, basketball, tennis, gymnastics and auto racing.

Sports created in Brazil:


Science and technology

Some of Brazil's most important technology nodes are located in São José dos Campos, Campinas, São Carlos, Rio de Janeiro, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Recife and São Paulo.

Brazilian information technology is considered one of the most advanced in the world. Catering for the internal market, Brazilian IT is recognised as a leader in financial services, defense, CRM, eGovernment, and healthcare.

The government of Brazil is attempting a switch to free software and operating systems in place of proprietary software with little success so far.[4]


See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
CIA World Fact Book, 2004/Brazil

Lists of Brazilian fauna and flora

Mammals · Birds · Reptiles
Amazon Rainforest vegetation · Atlantic Forest vegetation · Caatinga vegetation · Cerrado vegetation · Pantanal vegetation

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